memory foam mattress

What Is Memory Foam?: Everything You Need to Know

Since the 90s, memory foam mattresses have gained popularity among the masses. These mattresses are popular for evenly distributing weight and relieving joint pain. Even if you are a restless sleeper, memory foam can make sleeping easy for you. 

But, what is memory foam? Are memory foam mattresses good? How is memory foam made? What is the difference between memory foam and gel memory foam? In this article, we will tell you whether memory foam mattresses are worth it or not. 

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Memory foam was designed for NASA in the 1960s. It is made from energy absorbent and a soft substance called viscoelastic foam which has open cells. It molds to the body and returns to its original position when there is no pressure. All these qualities make memory foam super comfortable

After NASA planes, memory foam was used for other applications. It was used for cushioning in helmets and shoes. It was used in medicine as well. It was used as a product or prosthetics to prevent pressure ulcers, like seating pads for disabled people.

As time passed, memory foam gained popularity. Now, it is used in pillows, mattresses, and mattress pads. 

What Is Memory Foam Made Of?

This soft and comfortable material is made up of polyurethane or low-resistance polyurethane foam. Polyurethane is a common and versatile plastic polymer that can make various products like furniture, insulation, spray foam, car parts, and even rollerblade wheels. 

Various compounds and additives are added to polyurethane to create different types of foam. 

These chemicals affect two properties of foam, namely:

  • Viscosity
  • Elasticity

In terms of memory foam, when a material is dense, it takes a long time to change shape under pressure or transfer energy. 

When a material is elastic, it can distort or stretch but return to its original shape with no stretching force. 

Various processes and methods can affect the function and feel of the viscoelastic memory foam. All the manufacturers have different recipes for the chemicals they add to make the foam. However, viscoelastic memory foam, used primarily on memory foam, has polyether polyol, making them viscous and elastic. 

How Does Memory Foam Work?

Memory Foam molds to the shape of our body due to heat and pressure and to evenly distribute body weight. They are designed to return to their original form once there is no pressure. 

It responds according to how you apply pressure. If you apply pressure quickly, the foam changes shape more slowly. This shows that foam is excellent at absorbing the force of an impact, and that’s why it was used in space shuttle construction. As a mattress material, this quality helps to cushion the body evenly. 

When no pressure is applied, memory foam returns to its original position in 15 to 20 seconds. During the recovery period, energy from the impression is absorbed and dispersed. This time lag or hysteresis helps sleepers by removing some of the pressure produced by the body. 

Another essential fact about memory foam is that its viscosity decreases with temperature. If it gets hotter, it becomes more flexible and less stiff. 

That’s why when you remain on your mattress for some time, the bed feels softer and flexible as the body heat increases the temperature of the mattress. This is how memory foam makes your bedtime comfortable. 

Types of Memory Foam Mattresses 

Memory Foam mattresses have various sizes, shapes, and construction styles. Mainly, there are three memory foam types. 

1. Traditional Memory Foam Mattresses

This is the classic memory foam. Traditional mattresses are the earliest of all memory foam mattresses. Many people often compare it with sleeping on a pillow, while others complain that the bed retains too much heat. Due to the closed-cell structure, the mattress has more warmth. The traditional mattress is not comfortable for people who live in warm climates or sleep hot. 

Although the polyurethane by-product gives people a good sleeping experience compressing around the curves of the body. 

2. Open Cell Memory Foam

Open-cell memory foam materials are similar to sponges. Like sponges, they are made up of many small passages. When the pressure is applied, due to these passages, air circulates, and heat escapes. 

These mattresses are less dense and, therefore, sometimes less supportive. However, new production technologies are working to resolve this issue. 

3. Foam Mattress with Gel Pods

Foam Mattress with Gel Pods is the most advanced mattress of three mattresses. The top layer has gel pods to provide comfort and full-body support. The gel helps in absorbing and releasing heat from your body. 

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Check out our complete guide on different types of mattresses to know more.

Memory Foam Mattress Layers

Every sleeper has different requirements. To fulfill the needs of everyone, memory foam mattresses have other construction techniques.  Generally, there’s a basic template that most of the memory foam mattresses follow. The template has three components.

Comfort Layer

The top layer of the mattress has one or more foam layers. These are designed to provide cushioning and contouring. The foam is generally breathable in this layer to avoid having a hot sleep surface.

Transition Layer 

The transition layer has one or more foam layers as well. These are slightly firmer than the comfort layer. This section absorbs the heat from the comfort layer. 


This largest layer is the firmest one. It plays a crucial role by providing stability and support to the mattress. 

What Makes Memory Foam Different?

What does sleeping on a memory foam feel like? To learn about that, you need to read about the qualities of a memory foam bed.


The most outstanding feature of a memory foam mattress is contouring. When you lie down on the bed, you can feel the surface contouring to the curves of your body perfectly. 


You can feel sinking into the mattress. This quality makes you feel embraced by the bed.

Palpable Response

When you lie down on the mattress, it becomes more flexible and less dense to the pressure and heat of your body. 

Pros and Cons of Memory Foam Mattress

So many people cannot imagine sleeping without a memory foam mattress; on the other hand, some hate it. To understand better, let’s discuss the pros and cons of this mattress type.

Pros of Memory Foam Mattress

Right Icon Temperature and Pressure: Memory foam mattresses respond to the pressure and temperature of your body to contour and provide you the most comfortable sleeping experience. 

Right Icon Motion Isolation: If your co-sleeper tosses and turns all night, you don’t need to worry about it. These mattresses minimize the effect of motion transfer. 

Right Icon Durable: These dense mattresses have outstanding durability. Low-density foam lasts about 4- 6 years, while medium and high-density foams last for 8- 10 years.

Right Icon Antimicrobial: The dense cellular structure of these mattresses makes an inhabitable environment for microorganisms. Dust mites, bacteria, and fungi can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation.  

Right Icon Quiet: These mattresses are famous for being quiet. This mattress is your best option if you don’t wish to be bothered by groaning, squeaking of the bed in the middle of the night. 

Cons of Memory Foam Mattress

cons icon Sleeps Hot: Due to their dense layers, memory foam mattresses tend to trap heat. When you are on your bed, the bed molds to your body shape, leaving no space for heat to escape. This can lead to uncomfortable and disturbed sleep. Many mattress brands are aware of the problem and are bringing new solutions to the problem. They are using cooling technologies and plant-based foams. 

cons icon Potential Off-Gassing: To make a memory foam mattress, many chemicals are added to polyurethane foam to increase elasticity and viscosity. When these chemicals break down, it leads to off-gassing or a new mattress smell. During off-gassing, volatile organic compounds are emitted into the air and can cause nausea, headaches, or other reactions to people. Although, the scents go away in a few days. In case it doesn’t, contact the brand about your concerns. 

cons icon Prone to Water Damage: The memory foam mattress is not water-proof. If you have kids at home, you need to be extra careful. Any kind of water damage can void the mattress warranty. We advise you to use a mattress protector to protect your mattress from any type of stains.

cons icon Costly: Good things come at a reasonable price. These mattresses are costlier than the other mattresses, especially the top-quality memory foam mattresses. 

cons icon Difficult to Move: It’s not easy to move or lift a memory foam mattress. Memory foam mattress weight is heavier than other mattresses. 

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Memory Foam Mattress

Now that you have learned what memory foam is, and If you have finally decided to purchase a memory foam mattress for yourself, you need to go through these points. 


Firmness is a significant concern in mattresses. The mattresses come in various levels of firmness. Mattress firmness can be described on a scale of 1 to 10. One is very soft and 1tenbeing very firm. 

Most mattresses are described between the soft firm scale. If the store does not provide the information, you can check the Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) rating. The higher the ILD rating, the firmer the mattress. Each layer of the mattress (Comfort, Transition, Core) has an ILD score. There is an overall ILD score as well. 


These mattresses come in various densities. The density of the mattress is estimated in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). The higher the density, the longer it will keep its shape and elasticity. High-density mattresses lead to sleep hotter. 

If you don’t sleep hot, the recommended density is around 3.0-5.0 PFC.


The thickness of a mattress means how many inches it measures from the side. Memory foam mattresses have a thickness of around 6 to 14 inches. Thick mattresses are more supportive and softer than thin mattresses.

You should also look for the thickness of each layer. It’s best to have four inches of combined comfort and transition foam between the sleep surface and the mattress base.

Standardized Testing Certifications

Lower quality mattresses may have additives that can:

  • Reduce the lifespan of the mattress
  • Degrade the material
  • Cause irritation

To make sure the mattress is of excellent quality, you should look for a Certipur-US certification. This confirms that the mattress is not made from any such chemicals that are bad for the bed and your health. 

A Certipur-US certified mattress does not have mercury, lead, heavy metals, PBDEs,  phthalates,  or formaldehyde. 

A certified mattress prevents you from worrying about the mattress or your health. Make sure you check if the mattress is certified before buying it. 

Make your search easy by looking at the Nectar memory foam mattress. Nectar mattresses are certified mattresses with various options. 


A memory foam mattress is an excellent investment for a good night’s sleep. Although, it depends upon your needs and preference. Read about the specifications, and get the best mattress for better sleep. 


How much does a memory foam mattress cost?

On average, a memory foam mattress costs around $800 to $2,500. Some mattresses cost more or less than this price range. 

Is memory foam good for your back?

As memory foam molds to your body, they are great for supporting your back and relieving your lower back pain

Why is it called memory foam?

When you get up from a memory foam mattress, the bed takes some time to get back to its original state as the pressure is removed. That means the foam has a memory; it keeps the shape of your body for a while. That’s why it is known as a memory foam mattress. 

How is memory foam made?

Memory foam is made by adding various chemicals and additives to polyurethane.

Can I sleep on my memory foam mattress right away?

It takes more than 6 hours to set up the mattress. We recommend you wait for 24 hours to sleep on the new bed.  

How long does a memory foam mattress last?

It depends on how you maintain the mattress. Typically, a memory foam mattress lasts between 8 to 10 years.